Cosmic Wheels

This large abandoned fly wheel rests near a mine head in the ghost town of Bodie, CA. From the first time I photographed it many years ago I have wanted to take this image with the star trails. I finally had the opportunity to create it when I led a photo workshop in Bodie last June. As part of the workshop I had students set up a star trail shot before dusk with a delayed start. We then went off to take Milky Way images around the rest of the town. On the way back to the vehicles we did some light painting on the flywheel and then packed up our gear.

Type of Critique Requested

  • Aesthetic: Feedback on the overall visual appeal of the image, including its color, lighting, cropping, and composition.
  • Conceptual: Feedback on the message and story conveyed by the image.
  • Emotional: Feedback on the emotional impact and artistic value of the image.
  • Technical: Feedback on the technical aspects of the image, such as exposure, color, focus and reproduction of colors and details, post-processing, and print quality.

Specific Feedback and Self-Critique

The axle of the flywheel conveniently points almost due north. I decided to set my camera to the side hoping a diagonal composition would make the image more dynamic. The challenge was composing the image before the stars came out.

Technical Details

Canon 5DIV with Sigma14mm f1.8 lens.
ISO 200, f5.6
36 - 2 minute exposures blended in Photoshop.


Hi Paul! What a cool idea. I really like how you composed this and how the circles all compliment each other.

Love the composition Paul. Wheels within wheels. I like the connection you made by having the wheel pointing north. The light painting works well with those complimentary tones.

Wonderful idea and the axle is wonderful pointed toward the center of rotation! The light painting looks great.

I’m a fan of round star trails and getting them is only a little more trouble. That involves aiming the camera so the center of rotation of the stars is exactly in the center of the frame. Easy to come close with a few test exposures of 1-2 minutes to see the movement of Polaris, and some light on the FG so it’s well placed in the frame. Then just crop the final assembled image to feature the FG object and the desired amount of stars.

A very creative and cool idea, Paul. Wonderful.